Happy New Year – A Year or Two in Brief

Happy New Year, everyone.

First an Apology

Yes, I know how pathetic this is. I haven’t done a New Years blog post in as long as I can remember (maybe 2009), but I’m going to try to sum up a few years in one post for the folks who are at a greater distance and for those we don’t see very often.

Family Photo

Merry Christmas! Can you count how many ways this image is politically incorrect?

2011 began with me being thankful that I had retired in June 2010, since, had I not, it would have been the worst driving year on record.  Instead, I plugged away at finishing the inside of the Mancave, which had finally had the boiler installed and in-floor heat fired up just before Christmas. Pictures of the progress can be found here.

While there’s still a lot of work to do on the Mancave to get it where I want it, it’s largely functional and reasonably well-equipped.  I still need to build a lot of storage units and a unified work area around the table saw, but all in good time.

With Age, Wisdom … and some Creaky Parts

In late January and Early February 2011, I began to experience an ever-increasing pain which emanated from just inside my right shoulder blade and, with time, radiated ever farther down my shoulder and right arm.  Being a thick-skulled man who has been blessed with very little pain in his life, I mostly tried to ignore it, but it continued to get more intense until one night, after I’d already consumed far more ibuprofen than any human should ingest, Irene awoke to the sound of me passing out and hitting the kitchen floor (on my way to get some more pain medication.)  After that, she had this crazy idea that I should seek medical help.  Since It was Monday of the Family Day long weekend, that meant going to Emergency in Swift Current.  When I finally got to see a doctor, he gave me a cursory exam in the waiting room that would have made a witch doctor proud and pronounced that I probably had a sprain, and that I should “take some Tylenol for the pain.”  I wanted to say, “Dude, you looked at the chart, right? What’s Tylenol going to do to pain that mocked 1200 mg of Ibuprofen?” but I didn’t, and I’m proud to say I never hit him.

On a brighter note, when I did get to see my local GP and a physiotherapist the next day, I got a more informed diagnosis.  I had some compression in C4-C5, C5-C6 area that was pinching a nerve(s).  With the help of drugs and physiotherapy, I managed to get the pain under control over the next few weeks.  By some time in May/June I had, for the most part, abandoned pain killers, and by mid-October, I was finally able to stop taking the nerve-deadening agent, Gabipentin.  About the same time, I began to get something approaching full strength back in my right arm.  Two years later, I’m still aware of the condition, but any occasional pain is easily managed.


By late February, the prolonged winter, mounds of snow, and months of shovelling had us both antsy, so we decided to indulge in a luxury we have had little time for in the past – a trip to warmer climes.  Together with Irene’s brother and sister-in-law, Dwight and Penny, we took off to San Jose del Cabo for a week of sunshine and self-indulgence in mid-March.  We enjoyed the time there thoroughly.  The weather was gorgeous, and the food and booze plentiful.  In addition to the good weather and gluttony, highlights of the trip included falling asleep to the sounds of the surf at night and spending an hour or more watching a humpback whale mother and calf at very close quarters. [Pictures]

Then Some Broken Parts

Spring took its time coming in 2011, so when she finally had a nice day in early May, Irene set out with a ladder and bucket to clean the outside of the windows of the house.  She was almost done the entire house when she momentarily over-reached while on some unstable ground, came crashing down and broke her ankle.   I wasn’t home at the time, so she dragged herself around to the front of the house, where neighbours had been earlier. But when she got there, they were gone, so she dragged herself into the house and called 911. After a quick trip to the local Health Centre and a couple of X-rays, the local GP determined that she needed to take an ambulance trip to Regina.  A little over 24 hours after her initial spill, she was in surgery acquiring various sorts of hardware to piece together the shattered bone.

And Another Escape

While her recovery was steady, it was a bit too slow and frustrating for her liking.  She did manage to get the go ahead, though, to put weight on her leg just  a couple of days before we were slated to go to Chicago with Jaimie and Aaron to visit Steven in early July.  If my enjoyment of Mexico was coloured somewhat by my neck injury, Irene’s Chicago experience was hampered even more by her ankle.  She soldiered through a fair bit of walking, but I’m quite sure she swallowed a whole lot more pain than she let on to the rest of us.

The Chicago trip had been planned a few months earlier, initially under the excuse of attending the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, a three-day outdoor extravaganza with three stages and some twenty one acts.  We extended that into a week of having the family together in one location, something we had also managed to do the previous year with a canoe trip.  We flew out of Regina on July 2.  We began our Chicago experience the very next day with a Cubs vs White Sox game at Wrigley Field, a classic old sports venue if there ever was one. We ended the week with three days at the concert. After the first day, we discovered that Irene’s injury qualified her and one other person to watch the acts from the “handicapped” platform, a raised area not too far from the stage. While that didn’t make up entirely for the pain, it certainly made for a much better experience overall.

Run My Renovation

Aaron and Jaimie had bought a new house in the summer of ’11, so in early August we started doing a few odd jobs on the new house. Then, once they had moved in, we began a fairly complete reno on the old house to spruce it up for sale.  We painted the entire place from top to bottom, replaced all the carpet with hardwood as well as the flooring in the entryway and utility room. Then we ripped out the kitchen cabinets, and I made custom cabinets for the both kitchen and utility room. Like most projects, it took waaayyy longer than I had expected (mid November), but the end result was a huge improvement, and the proof was in the pudding; within three days of listing, the house sold for a fairly good price. [pictures]

One of the reasons that the project took as long as it did was that I was working for an acquaintance on new construction out in White City at the same time. I had spent a few weeks in June of 2011 working for him, and then returned in early September. So, for two and a half months, I worked eight hour days in White City and then fit in as much time as I could at Aaron’s old house evenings and weekends. It was a long slog, but I learned a few things doing both jobs. One of them was that I don’t really want to work at two jobs at the same time when I’m supposedly retired.

Yes, It IS My Business

But by this time, the Mancave was a functional workspace, so I began doing some work for other folks. In the past year or so, I have:

  • Helped a former colleague of mine finish a basement [pictures],
  • Built some office furniture and cabinets for another client [pictures],
  • Done a complete kitchen renovation for a former colleague [pictures].
  • Finished some more storage for the mancave [pictures]
  • Re-done a bathroom for a friend [pictures]
  • Built some nightstands for Jaimie and Aaron [pictures]
  • Installed a kitchen backsplash for a former colleague
  • Built a kitchen island and installed countertops for a client
  • And installed kitchen cabinets (not my own) for another client.

Those last two are still waiting for backsplashes to be installed and a few other details; hence, no pictures.

All in all, I’ve kept as busy as I want to be, and while the “business” has yet to turn a real profit, I have managed to pay off the truck I bought, and it has, for the most part, fed my tool habit. In other words, it’s kept my hobby from being a drain on the household finances. And it’s fended off boredom, which would not be a healthy condition in my case.

Everything Old is New Again

As for Irene, she is still working at Montgomery & Son, the Polaris dealership just outside of Gull Lake, but now it is Montgomery and Son in business name only. A young fellow from Gravelbourg bought out the business in March. That meant the first six months of the year were a bit wild for her, winding down one set of books at the same time she was firing up a new one and helping the new owner learn the ropes of the business. Many long hours. The upside is that the new owner has been good to her, so the atmosphere around work is quite relaxed. It’s always amazing what a bit of patience and a sense of humour can do for a work environment. Still, she would rather join me in retirement, but the financial markets have their own idea about that, so we’ll have to keep plugging away.

And Yet Another Escape … or Three

As for recreation, one of the highlights of the past year was our trip to China in October and November. We toured for just over three weeks. It was a great experience. Not exactly resort holidaying, but fascinating nonetheless. If you’re really hard up for reading material, my documentation of that journey begins here. I will confess, I’m not very good at editing when it comes to this sort of thing, so the level of detail might be a bit much. I consider these blogs primarily as records for myself, so that I can look back and remember details of a trip. For others, they might be a bit tedious. I also have no filter when it comes to the pictures I upload; those are here. Again, I treat the gallery as a web storage backup of my photos; unless a photo is an absolute bust, it gets uploaded. The blog also contains some observational posts that might be more interesting in ways different from the strictly episodic ones that document the journey. By the way, if you do happen to slog through the blog, it ends rather abruptly; I still haven’t managed to cover the last week or so of the trip.

As fast as China is changing, one could visit every five years, travel to the same locations and experience a different China. We left southern China for another time and would still like to see Mongolia and Tibet. So much planet, so little time.

I did get some other holidaying in this year – of a sort. In June, Ryan Nichols, formerly vice principal here in Gull Lake, and now principal of Carnduff, invited me to accompany his class canoe trip to the Churchill River. The kids were great, so that was enjoyable. It was interesting, too, to see kids of students I taught decades before when I was principal of Carnduff High. Then in August I flew down to Nova Scotia to help Steven build a rustic cabin on some property he bought there. That was more of a working vacation, but it was still very enjoyable. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, we’ve never made it to the Maritimes yet, so that was a first for me.

And the Children, Don’t Forget the Children

Steven is back working in India. In January of 2012, he joined a small company formed by some former Thoughtworks colleagues. He seems to be enjoying the work and is finding opportunities to do a bit of travelling as well. He was home for a while in summer, and he also made it home for Christmas. Aaron and Jaimie drove down from Regina on Boxing Day and stayed for a couple days. It’s always good to have everyone together for a day or two.

Aaron took some time off work this fall to complete his degree, something both Jaimie and Irene have been prodding him to do for some time. He plans to go back to work for ADX Studios in January. In Fall, Jaimie bid goodbye to two hectic years of commuting to Moose Jaw and accepted a teaching job at an alternative school in Regina. Even though the students can occasionally be challenging, she’s enjoying the change very much, and we’re all relieved she doesn’t have to be out on the road every day.

Next Christmas will be celebrated in warmer climes, as Aaron and Jaimie plan to get married at a southern destination. They are in the process right now of choosing a resort. Since Jaimie’s a teacher, as are many in her family, Christmas holidays is one of the few times that would work for that sort of thing.

Until Next Time …

When that time comes, I will try to create another update rather than waiting three or four years between instalments.

In the meantime, I hope this missive finds you and yours healthy and happy.  Thanks to all those organized people who find the time to send us letters and pictures. We really do appreciate them. For those of you who have given up on us, we understand; we are unworthy.

Enjoy what remains of the holiday and have a Happy New Year!

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